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Insider

NFL evaluators predict Week 1's best games

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Does New York need Beckham to beat Dallas? (1:32)

Michael Smith and Jemele Hill debate whether the Giants can defeat the Cowboys without Odell Beckham Jr. now that Ezekiel Elliott will be available for their matchup. (1:32)

ESPN senior writer Mike Sando asks league insiders to pick winners in selected games each week. Three evaluators took the challenge in Week 1. This week's games include Chiefs-Patriots, Raiders-Titans, Seahawks-Packers, Eagles-Redskins and Giants-Cowboys.


Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Thursday: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC | Point spread: NE by 9

All three insiders are taking New England at home, which was expected, but this matchup was too interesting to leave off the opening-week list. New England went heavy on veteran additions to its roster, while Kansas City drew attention to its quarterback plan by trading up for Patrick Mahomes II in the draft.

"Losing Julian Edelman is huge for New England," the first insider said. "It is not like losing Wes Welker. Edelman has more swag. He wasn't just a slot guy. He could do everything. [Brandin] Cooks fills some of the void, and finally having Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] healthy helps. I think [Rex] Burkhead is going to be an X factor. Kansas City cannot match up with him, linebacker to running back. I think he has a great game."

The Patriots signed Burkhead to a four-year deal back in March. So much has happened since then that it's easy to overlook what an intriguing move it was, in the context of New England exploiting matchups with its backs. There was a feeling that New England would be strong on the ground, and there were questions over whether the Chiefs' run defense could hold up effectively.

"New England has a lot of moving parts as a team," another insider said. "They always get better and peak at the end of the year. Matchup-wise, neither team is going to turn the ball over, typically. I don't necessarily see a defensive game, but just smart, tactical football is the way it'll be played, with New England pulling it out in the end."